{7QuickTakes} in the midst of family dance party!!!!

So, it is Friday night and Hubby just called to say he has to stay late at work…ugh.  So I sit here with a glass of vino and KidzBop playing on the iPhone while the kiddos run around like banshees.  TGIF!  Here’s some more excitement akin to the party over at Kelly’s.

ONE.

Not gonna lie, some days parenting is hard.  Sometimes the kids are running around like banshees (oops, already mentioned that…mommy brain…) and you have a sinus infection and the LAST THING you wanna do is make another friggin’ peanut butter sandwich.  But then oldest daughter has to do her reading homework and decides it is a good idea to read to younger brother while channeling her first-grade teacher at storytime.  I had to smile.  So cute.

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TWO

I am not the most confident person in the world.  Luckily, as an adult I have been nowhere near where I was in that regard in high school!  However, I have been going through a rough patch lately.  I am just feeling…I don’t know….frumpy and uncool.  I think it has to do with it being February.  Not a fan of this month.  We’ve all been sick and stir-crazy and I am ready for spring!  But I think that since I’ve been fighting negativity on that front it has come over to bite me on the confidence front as well.  Nothing specific, just an overwhelming feeling of disliking myself.  This, too, shall pass, I know.

THREE.

But…but…something wonderful has happened to my sweet younger sis!  She is engaged!  Yay!  So happy for her and her young man.  We are looking forward to a fall wedding.

FOUR.

Since I suffer from depression, I have always been worried about my children ending up suffering from those sort of things as well.  My oldest, Junior, has always been extremely sensitive and intense.  This year he has been suffering from panic attacks and seems to experience anxiety that is really hard to get a handle on.  We have been in communication with his school counselor and she has been really great about teaching him relaxation techniques and just being available for him to visit with about his concerns.  However, it is scary when he gets so worked up that he can’t calm himself down.  He has especially been stressed-out this week about his upcoming karate testing and a school program where he has to memorize a speech.  It is really hard for me, as a parent, trying to help him through dealing with this anxiety, especially since he is only in 4th grade!  It seems too young to have the weight of the world on your shoulders.

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My favorite stress relief: the sunset out my back porch:-)

FIVE.

Bellie sat and watched the entire 3-episode special of Rick Steves’ Travel Skills television shows with me.  At first she was irritated that I wanted to watch that while I folded laundry (folding, which I hate…sometimes the only thing that gets me through is Rick Steves and wine), but then she was kind-of interested in the lovely locales Rick was visiting.  I think she was most impressed with the tiny Swiss alpine villages.  (I hope we can take the kids over there some day!)

SIX.

Oh the Trolls soundrack.  We have moved on from KidzBop.  Which I have something of an affinity for…I now have small ballerinas dancing to Anna Kendrick’s version of The Sound of Silence.

SEVEN.

I made a promise last weekend that I had to keep.  It was hard.

I let my kids do painting.

It was stressful.  It was messy.  Spike dumped an entire water cup of green-tinted water on the floor but did not seem concerned in the least.  I think they had fun.  And that is what motherhood is all about.

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I can’t resist making my children’s dreams come true.

Blessings for a great week ahead!

 

 

 

 

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In the Land of Blahs: how to cure a tired routine

may-you-walk-a-lighted-pathI am really good in times of crisis.  Not that I am asking for one (kay, God, got that?) but I have observed that I wind up being resourceful, focused and disciplined when called upon if things get suddenly very bad, very fast.  When my dad had a heart attack.  When, at two separate times my children had to be hospitalized.  When hubby lost his job.  I think it is something about the immediacy, the necessity of a plan, the life-and-death sort of reality that is more concrete than abstract, if that makes sense.  There is one goal: to get through this.  Often there is one course of action – to just keep buggering on.  And I feel adept at that.

Where my resolve starts to falter and my focus and motivation leaves me is when the routine of daily life becomes so repetitive – so predictable – that each day seems more dull and difficult to find joy in than the last.  I don’t believe this is a problem unique to stay-at-home moms.  I know Hubby feels the same way about going to work, as I am sure most people do when the day-in-day-out tends to more repetitive than stimulating.

Don’t get me wrong:  I love my life.  I love my family.  I feel blessed and grateful that we live in such a safe and healthy environment where my children have enough to eat and the opportunity to go to school and extracurricular activities.  I have a roof over my head and don’t need to worry about where the next paycheck is coming from.  I certainly don’t take any of that for granted.

But lately, I have been feeling….I don’t know….Blah.  Part of it is probably the weather.  Part of it might be due to the fact that I pick up 10 million toys that are littered around the house about 15 times a day and it gets old.  I get tired of the routine of yelling at the kids to get their lesson stuff together and get into the car (a process that takes, at best, 30 minutes)  and then arriving at said lesson with one of them missing their shoes.  I get bored to death with having to cook dinner every night (fancy cuisine-preparing genius I am not) and change two sets of diapers on a regular basis, with an almost 2-year-old and almost 4-year-old (yes, he is resolutely not interested in using the potty!) fighting me every step of the way.  I groan at the end of the day when I see the dishes piled up still on the table (Hubby doesn’t get the memo that yes, on nights when I am running with Junior to karate, the dinner chores still need to be done).

On Monday, the younger two were taking turns whining and fighting with each other, while simultaneously following me around trying to bite me out of love (I guess?) and I couldn’t take it anymore.  I turned on Paw Patrol and locked myself in my office and researched lodging options for Europe.  For two hours.  It was as though after all the figurative trudging through the muck and mire of daily life I just needed a mind vacation.  The mind vacation of fantasizing about a real vacation.  A real vacation that I keep struggling with feeling OK about taking.  Needless to say, I feel like if I didn’t have that to look forward to, life would feel very bleak indeed.

Which leads me to try to come up with some other ways I can Fight the Blahs.  I can’t always be planning a trip.  (Or maybe I can, but I still need some other outlets!)

Learn Something New

I admit, I have a problem with this one.  I think it is because I have so many interests, yet once I start something, I lose motivation pretty quickly.  Especially if I get bogged down if I feel it is difficult or tedious.  I took up knitting a few winters ago because several friends were learning how to knit.  They all seemed to excel at it (rather quickly, silly overachievers!) and I was still struggling with how to count stitches while they were already on patterns.  They were knitting socks with circular needles while I only managed a lopsided pot holder.  So I guess the goal for me is to learn something new that might yield positive results right away and that I can learn at my own pace, which might be really slow.

Set a Goal

This ties in with Learn Something New.  It occurred to me that I haven’t actually set a goal in my life for a looooooong time.  And I am talking something realistic, not just “be the perfect wife and mother with zero stress and a supermodel body.”  Something attainable yet challenging.  Something to look forward to, not something to be viewed as an obligation.

Vary Routines

A lot of my day is set in stone, with the times and days of lessons being set.  But if I look at some pockets of time, I realize that I can vary what I do, and when.  The easiest thing to do is just to drive a different way to and from my destination.  I could drive by the river instead of through town.  I could leave a little earlier and take the scenic route.  Sometimes just a change of scenery can break you out of the Blahs.

Wear Pearls

Part of my frustration with my daily routines is that I don’t feel good.  I mean, I don’t really feel good about myself.  Going through daily life in yoga pants and a t-shirt might be comfortable, but it was not giving me the boost of confidence I think that would make my interactions with people more pleasant.  I read a blog posting a while back saying that stay-at-home moms should “dress for success” just like their working-mom counterparts.  Which is somewhat hard for me to stomach, when I spend the majority of my day cleaning up smushed floorbanana and poopy diapers and trying to avoid being used as human kleenex.  But maybe if I treat myself more “professionally”, my family might see me as less of a doormat and more of a woman worthy to be respected.  And that might make me respect myself more, too.  I am not talking dresses and heels or anything here; I am just thinking taking a little more time choosing what I wear and perhaps throwing on that string of pearls might be a positive boost for my day.

Practice Gratitude

One of my favorite books is Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.  She and her sister were very religious and were sent to a concentration camp during WWII for hiding Jews.    While Corrie found it hard to stomach the conditions they were living in, her sister reminded her of St. Paul’s admonition to “give thanks in all things”- even horrible things, like life in a concentration camp.  Corrie tells her sister, “I see what you’re saying, but how are we supposed to be grateful for the fleas and the lice that are infesting this cell block?”  Her sister didn’t have a good answer.  Earlier,  Corrie related a story of how she and her sister smuggled a Bible into the camp, somewhat miraculously.  With the Bible, they were able to encourage fellow prisoners to keep everyone’s spirits up.  Later on, they thought it was incredible that the Nazis had never come into the cell block to confiscate the Bible (and, most likely, enact a brutal punishment on the women for smuggling it in).  In fact, they never entered that cell block at all.  The reason?  The lice and fleas that Corrie was reluctant to give thanks for.  Their presence had been the reason God’s Word could still be heard in the most unlikely of places.

This story reminds me that, even in the doldrums of daily routine, there is plenty to be thankful for!

Deepen Spiritual Life

I find everything is easier to deal with when I am focused on the most important routine of all: spending time with God each day.  Of course most of the time I don’t make this a priority.   There is always something “more important” to do.  Housework, for example!  Chasing the kids!  It is hard to find time with these more pressing, immediate, concerns.  I think God gets that.  So I wait around for a quiet moment and try to get in a bit of Bible reading.  I find that sometimes I won’t even be thinking about it, but will feel a little nudge as though God is telling me, “Spend a little time with Me right now.”  And I try to listen.   I feel that by making Him a priority, I can more easily get the rest of my priorities in order.

And perhaps that is why “The Blahs” occur anyhow – they are a call to take stock of life and figure out what is really important, what is really necessary, and what really brings joy to one’s life.

I’d love to hear some other suggestions for how to Fight the Blahs!

 

 

 

 

 

Asking for what you need and guilt-laden “me time”

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lovely image of Paris courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I have been struggling with two main emotions  challenges stumbling blocks lately.  And they are guilt and my struggle to be assertive.

I struggled with this last month when my in-laws were visiting.  I have been struggling with it this month while I try to plan my upcoming Europe trip, as well as take some much-needed “me time” in the form of my monthly Bunco get-together.  Hubby, understandably, is resistant to the times I spend away from the family.  It places extra burden on him and he really doesn’t get anything concrete in return.  (One could argue a happier, more rested wife, but we’ll get back to that in a minute…)

Things came to a head last week when I was discussing the aforesaid European trip with Hubby, complaining that there wouldn’t be enough time to comfortably see EVERYTHING, and he suddenly said, “I am not sympathetic; I am not supportive of this trip in the first place.”

Wow.

I was thrown for a loop.  Here I am, glibly planning this two week trip for next summer with friends and – heck- we’re almost ready to buy plane tickets, when Hubby suddenly brings to my attention the fact that, ahem, he is not supportive of this trip.  I admit I never really asked permission to take this trip with friends -a trip that I have been saving both my money and airline miles for.  I had, at first, mentioned to Hubby that we take a trip together, just the two of us.  I suggested Alaska, a place Hubby had always wanted to see.  I figured out a little itinerary (Denali! Kenai Fjords! A fishing charter!) and asked my sister if she would be willing to come out to Idaho to watch the kids while we were gone.  I had it all planned, and presented the plan to Hubby on his birthday.

The response was not as I had expected.  He replied that he didn’t want to spend that kind of money, that his idea of an Alaskan trip was much different than my idea of an Alaskan trip (think flying into a remote North Pole-ery location and rustic camping/fishing for a week) and he reminded me that we don’t travel well together.  (Which is true, we have very different traveling styles).  I told him that we had enough airline miles for both of us to fly to Alaska for no cost.  He said, “I’m sure you’d rather go to Europe with those miles.”  And I said, “Yes, actually I would.  Can I go to Europe with those miles if you really really don’t want to do Alaska with me?”  And he said yes.  So I really really thought he was completely OK with me going to Europe next summer.

After the conversation (the one where he said he wasn’t going to support my trip), I was wracked with horrendous amounts of Guilt.  Who was I, thinking that it was completely OK to ditch my young family for a couple of weeks, leaving my poor frazzled husband to deal with them?  Who was I to make my husband take vacation from work to watch the kiddos while I gallivanted around Europe while he was forced to stay home and be stressed out?   Why did I think I deserved that?  What if something happened to the kids while I was gone?  What if something happened to me?  How selfish was that?  How selfish was I?

While I kept trying to make sense of my emotions regarding this I tried to ascertain exactly why Hubby said he was non supportive.  What he had said was he wasn’t supportive of my trip.  What I heard is that he wasn’t supportive of me.  When I asked him to clarify, he said he thought the expense of travel was too great and that he didn’t believe I would be able to save enough money beforehand to finance my trip.  He also was unhappy about having to take work off, using up valuable vacation time that he would rather use for….um, vacation.  He also was worried for my safety, in light of the terrorism that seems to run rampant in Europe these days.  Additionally, and perhaps a little “selfishly” on his part, he was jealous.  When had he gotten to take a two-week trip with his friends?  I reminded him of the cool locations he had traveled to for work (Sweden, for example).  Also, I reminded him that I had tried to get us to plan a trip to Alaska, a #1 bucket-list item on his agenda, but he had declined.

Nevertheless, even after finding out the reasons for my husband’s reluctance to this trip, I still felt guilty.  I assured him I would try even harder to save money.  I would sell stuff I was no longer using on ebay.  I would pare down my spending.  I also assured him I would try to figure out childcare options for while I was gone, perhaps hiring someone or seeing if a family member would come out to provide babysitting.  I can’t do anything about terrorism or crime except to keep alert and stick with my traveling companions, and I told him I would be supportive of any travel scheme he came up with in the future – with or without me.  But the guilt remained.

As a wife and a mother, and especially as a woman of God, we are taught the intrinsic value of sacrifice.  We sacrifice for our spouse.  We sacrifice, especially, for our children.  Our sleep, our time, our energy, our bodies.  We are happy to do it because our families are worth it.  No one wants to be that mom or that wife who selfishly puts her wants ahead of her family’s needs.

So when, if ever, is it OK to say “Time Out!  I need to focus on my needs a little bit.  And they might look like ‘wants’ to you, but believe me, THEY ARE NEEDS!”  Like rest and rejuvenation.  Intellectual and cultural stimulation.  Exercise time.  Heck, a shower!

I guess, ultimately, I don’t want my kids to look back at me during their childhood as a woman who had no identity except that as their mother or their father’s wife.  I want them to see me as a dynamic, interesting, and joyful  woman who sacrificed for them but never forgot to take time out for herself.  I don’t want them to remember me as bitter and frustrated and failing to be a person in my own right.  I also don’t want them to remember me as a woman racked with guilt over following my dreams.

That said, I am forging ahead with the planning for my Europe trip.  I will try to come up with ways to make the time I am gone (and the expense) less painful for Hubby.  I am sure I will continue to struggle with feelings of guilt, but I need to focus on the actual goal which is to create enough joy that I come back to nurture my family even better.  One can’t feel guilty about that.